Making a clean start
Updated: Aug 31
If you and your family have to flee your home, your first priorities are usually safety, water, food and shelter.
But once those needs are met, how to support yourself becomes an issue - what can you do from a refugee camp?
At UNHCR's Arabat Camp in Sulaimanyia, some of our team members last week helped a group of Syrian refugees learn how they might build a business to help support themselves and their families - and help fight disease at the same time. As part of our "Protecting the Frontline" COVID-19 response program, Field Ready Manufacturing Engineer Karar Hyder led seven displaced participants in a training session to learn how to make our Surprise Soaps and hand sanitizer.
The training has a dual purpose; in addition to helping encourage hand hygiene and stave off illness, the soaps and sanitizer can be manufactured in bulk and sold to NGOs and organizations to help displaced people support themselves.
The Surprise Soaps in particular are a big success on both fronts, motivating school children to wash their hands often so they can get the toy inside the soap quickly. Hand sanitizers have proven very efficient as well, especially in areas where reliably fresh water isn't always available.
Hyder and Iraq Program Lead Ravin Rizgar guided participants in the measuring process to make and bottle the hand sanitizer, led them through each stage of soap-making - including how to construct the mold for the soap.
Participants were eager to learn how to scale the processes inside Arabat, and said they hoped to train others quickly to build up a business. After learning more about supplies and pricing, the participants said they hoped to work with Field Ready to make more of the plastic toys - in this case, they are 3D-printed by our team members at our Sualimaniyah maker space.
To help participants expand on their goals after the training session, Hyder left enough glycerine, distilled water, rubbing alcohol, molds and other supplies to train at least 20 more people to make Surprise Soaps and hand sanitizer.
"They were very enthusiastic, and quite interested in making it a business," Rizgar said.
Expanding our "Protecting the Frontline" program - a joint effort by Field Ready, NeedsList and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMaps Team (HOTS) that connects first responders in Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda and Iraq with local manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) - remains a strong focus for us, especially in refugee camps. To help an organization get, give or make PPE in those countries, please visit makeitlocal.org
And please enjoy this look into our Surprise Soap-making process!